ALMA — The Young Actors Guild presented Broadway’s longest-running musical, Les Miserables, the school edition, to a packed house Thursday evening (June 14) at the Alma Performing Arts Center.
Les Miserables is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo that is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It's the longest running musical on Broadway and the West End, having exceeded 2,500 performances.
Cost of the local production was $70,000, made possible by supporters of the Young Actors Guild. The props and set had been rented only once before; the costumes were fitted to each character's measurements and ordered from Broadway Tours. Theatrical firearms were also a first for the group.
Prior to Thursday’s opening performance, donors were treated to a sponsor reception onstage, where they were able to tour the stage, visit with the orchestra and cast and be the first to see the set up close. Music for the student edition of Les Miserables was provided by John Jeter and members of the Fort Smith Symphony. Members of the Young Actors Guild Board of Directors served refreshments to those attending the pre-show reception.
Young Actors Guild executive director Missy Gipson said the production, which runs through Sunday (June 17), is the first time Les Miserables has ever been performed in the Fort Smith area.
“The students are not only learning acting skills, but are also getting hands-on technical skills,” Gipson said.
Chad Burris, a musical theater major at Ouchita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, plays the part of Jean Valjean. And this makes the 34th performance in a play for Grace Andrews. She got bit by the acting bug at the age of 8 in the play The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
She said the hardest thing for her during this production was “holding it together and staying in character when stressed.” She plans to attend Oklahoma City University for a bachelor of fine arts degree in acting. Her dream is to work in film and to one day be on the big screen.
Blakeley Knox has been performing on stage since the fourth grade and plays the lead role of Cosette in Les Miserables.
By all indications, the show is a success. Some in Thursday’s audience were moved to tears by the students’ performance. At the end, the young actors received a much-deserved standing ovation.
“I'm proud of all the kids,” Gipson said. “It lived up to every hope and dream I had for me and the cast and created things I would never imagine would happen.”